I remember when I first became a Christian I had this deep yearning and excitement to dig into the bible. I couldn't wait to attend youth group and learn more about Christ and what it meant to live according to God's word. I longed to know more about the man [Jesus] that gave up his own life to save mine. I was truly amazed at God and the sacrifice he had made for me.
I wish I could say that yearning and excitement has remained constant throughout the years. There have been times when I haven't felt like reading the bible, going to church or even praying. This is my current state of affairs. Reading the word of God and attending church has become such a routine that it now feels more like a chore than a joy. I read the word and listen to sermons, but no matter how much I try, I still feel spiritually dry. God kind of feels distant.
Then I think: "No! You are a Christian and you should be on fire for God 24/7!" and I start to feel guilty. But what's the outcome of this thought? I pray a little and read the bible out of obligation. What's going on? I know this isn't a healthy spiritual state, so what do I do about it?
Keeping spiritually fresh can be one of the most challenging battles any Christian can face. It can be pretty easy to get stuck in a routine that we can begin to lose focus. It can all become too familiar. How do we maintain a close relationship with God? How do I change my spiritual "flat line" to a line of higher activity?
In the book Battles Christians face, Vaughan Roberts dedicates the last chapter of the book to address the struggle of "keeping spiritually fresh". He suggests six ingredients for a healthy devotional life: keep an open bible, be ruthless with sin, think much of Christ, pray often, make the most of other Christians and maintain a regular "quiet time"<sup>1.
So I decided to take some of those suggestions on board. I have phrased his suggestions in the way I best understood them:
Hunger for God's word
I pray that I have a greater hunger for his word each day and that reading the word is a joy, not a task. I pray that each time I listen to a sermon, attend bible study or read the bible, I would be receptive of the word, and that God opens my eyes to see how beneficial his word is. I ask that I walk away having learned something and that the word breathes life just like it did when I first came to know Christ. I can ask myself questions like "what has challenged me from the word today and how will I apply this in my life?"
Confess my sins
Proverbs chapter 28, verse 13 states "he who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy". Unconfessed sin can bring about feelings of guilt and misery. It hinders our spiritual growth and can draw us further away from God. Rather than keep my distance from God when I have sinned, I will come to God and ask for forgiveness straight away. I should ask him to give me the strength to resist the temptation to sin again.
Furthermore, I'm asking God to search me and know my heart, and to see if there is any offensive way in me and for God to lead me in the way everlasting [Psalm 139 verses 23-24]. I'm asking God to cleanse me: to bring to light anything in my life that displeases Him and that I am so convicted that it leads me to change.
I know that to build my relationship with God, I need to pray earnestly. But I find it's easy to fall into a routine in prayer as well. So to try and combat this, I can vary my prayers by basing them on Psalms or personalising the prayers I find in my daily devotional material. Maybe I should even make an effort to take a couple of minutes each day to just to stop and pray. I can also pray with or for others.
Christ-focused not self-focused
Life can sometimes get in the way, and we end up focusing more on ourselves, our feelings and circumstances. The bible encourages us to fix our eyes on Jesus [Hebrews chapter 12, verse 2]. Our feelings often change, but Christ's promises remain eternally secure<sup>2. So I need to shift my focus to Christ. Just because I feel like God is distant, doesn't mean that He is. He did say He will never leave us nor forsake us. I should praise God for that and thank God for His blessings.
I know that I can't remain stagnant in my faith. Neither can I remain in the same place. There needs to be growth. It would be great to be on fire 24/7, but the reality is that life is a roller coaster ride. However, it is great to know that I can still rely on God through any circumstance. His love for me is independent of what I do, how I feel or my circumstances. I know that God knows my innermost desires. He never forsakes those who seek Him [Psalm chapter 9, verse 10].
1. Vaughan Roberts, Battles Christians Face, (Authentic Media Ltd, 2010)p. 130.
2. Vaughan Roberts, Battles Christians Face, (Authentic Media Ltd, 2010)p. 140.
Kandima Awendila was born in Mozambique and lives and works as an IT Service Desk Engineer on the Gold Coast.
Kandima Awendila's archive of articles may be viewed atwww.pressserviceinternational.org/kandima-awendila.html